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Then and Now

Published on June 26, 2019


By Wayne Atcheson

Then... FCA Camps

Just two years after Don McClanen founded FCA, the first FCA Camp, initially called “Conference,” took place at picturesque Estes Park, Colorado, at the YMCA of the Rockies, August 19-23, 1956.

HuddleThat first FCA Conference at Estes Park was a huge success with 256 attendees! President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent messages to read to the campers. Life Magazine, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Guideposts covered this historic meeting of Christian athletes and coaches. The opening night keynote speaker was Branch Rickey, known as the Founder of Modern Baseball. When the FCA Conference took place, FCA began to soar, and the joy spread.

For 63 years, FCA Camps have been a key point of ministry. Here’s a look back at the history of these life-changing gatherings.


Sports Heroes

Early FCA Conferences drew some of the top athletes and coaches in America. Sports heroes like Carl Erskine, Otto Graham, Bob Feller, Rafer Johnson, Doak Walker, Robin Roberts, Alvin Dark and Amos Alonzo Stagg skyrocketed the FCA movement. From the beginning, God was mighty in it.


Camp Themes

For 63 years, FCA Camps have run under a unified theme. The first Camp theme was “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.” Other popular themes have included, “Let Us Run the Race,” “The Goal and the Glory,” “The Life That Wins,” and “Run To Win the Prize.” The label of “Inspiration and Perspiration” summed up the FCA Conferences early on, and it’s a phrase we still use today.



Camp Music

For the first several years, athletes and coaches sang hymns like “How Great

Thou Art,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name” at FCA Conferences. In 1967, pop artist Ray Hildebrand began to write songs and added other popular choruses. With his guitar, Ray inspired hundreds of young men to become FCA song leaders across America.


Individuals like Bill Glass, Jerry Stovall, Prentice Gautt, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Paul Anderson, Jesse Owens, Bobby Bowden, John Wooden, Tom Osborne, Clebe McClary and Bill Leach, along with leading pastors across America, drew thousands of attendees to put their faith in Jesus Christ from the speaker’s platform. Billy Graham spoke at Black Mountain, North Carolina, in 1965, one of the first camps that is still going strong, and again several years later. Gifted and committed college athletes led many to Christ as Huddle leaders.

One NFL pro once said of FCA Camp, “If I could give one birthday gift, it would be an FCA Conference experience for everyone in the country.”

A high school athlete back then expressed it another way. “All my life, I ain’t been that good in sports—always second and third team—but now that I’ve found Jesus here, I’m really on the first team.”

The early years of FCA sowed seeds that have led to FCA’s unimaginable worldwide growth today.


FCA Camps Now

FCA Camps continue to grow! Today, we host six types of Camps, and we’ve reached more than 80,000 coaches and student-athletes across more than 771 Camps worldwide.


Wayne AtchesonWayne Atcheson joined the Kansas City FCA national staff in July 1967, and he was Director of six states from Indianapolis (1973-79). Wayne worked as Sports Information Director and FCA Campus Advisor from 1983-2002 for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He also served at Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild in Colorado Springs, and he became the first Billy Graham Library Director in Charlotte in 2006, where he now serves as Historian. He wrote Impact For Christ, the 40-year history of FCA, and he was a major contributor to Sharing The Victory, the 50-year FCA history. He and his wife, Barbara, met at an Estes Park FCA Conference. They have two daughters and four grandsons.